Wednesday, January 31, 2007

trip to pondy

It was the Republic Day long weekend. 2 days before the weekend, we started thinking whether we should go somewhere. Deciding now would mean going on the Bullet. And we were quite glad we don’t have other options open. Because the excitement of going to new places on a bike is matched only by few others. Finally, Friday the Republic Day arrived but we were quite lazy to get up early in the morning and so the day went on. By evening I was getting restless and missing what would have been a good trip somewhere. So I started dropping hints that I want to go to Pondicherry. And my intelligent husband picked up the hints and by night after dinner, we decided to start by 5 am and go to Pondicherry.
As always, the alarm went off. I switched it off and went to the bed again. Tried to wake up my husband and went to sleep. But this time, the desire to go was strong and I got up again after half an hour and so did my husband. We did everything starting from packing in a little more than an hour and finally we took off to Pondicherry by 6 am. Petrol and air stop at Hosur and we were on our way to Krishnagiri on a good 4 lane highway. Early morning rides are even great. To see the dawn breaking and the day setting in slowly while we are riding away amidst great looking landscapes is a real pleasure. Took a diversion to NH66 from Krishnagiri. Here the road was not that good. Some potholes surprise you as you go on an ok looking road. Look out for crows sitting on the roads. We were at a considerable speed and few crows were sitting on the road and they flew a bit too late and one of them hit my husband’s hand on the bike's handle. Poor bird broke his wing I suppose. But it was better than hitting our helmets or the brake. After the patch of about 40kms of the 'not so good' road, we were back on smooth roads and the next destination was Thiruvannamalai. We were there by 9:45 and decided to stop and see the temple and also have breakfast. Yes, there isn't any place before this where you can expect a decent breakfast. There is a Reliance A1 plaza after Hosur where you can stop for breakfast. But nothing after that or before Thiruvannamalai.
The temple at Thiruvannamalai is huge and quite nice. It is a huge complex with temples in it and also a pond. There was a small queue and we had to wait for darshan. But the temple can get very crowded if there is some festival related to Lord Shiva or on Fridays. There is an elephant in the temple who blesses people with his trunk. There seemed to be a significance of red color coz most women were wearing red sarees and men wore red kurta and lungi. We went to a nearby restaurant just outside the temple. As soon as we sat, we were given plates of idlis and some sambar. That was the only thing they had at the restaurant. We were hungry and ate the idlis for the first time without a spoon or fork as the restaurant didn't have spoons. By this time it was 11:45. We got back to the Pondicherry road. On the way there is Gingee Fort, some old ruins of a fort. We stopped to take pictures. The fort looked quite good and if it wasn’t for Pondicherry we were tempted to explore it more. But we satisfied ourselves with pictures and went ahead. We were in Pondy on the beach road by 1:30. The view was so great that my husband just parked the bike and without locking it, went to look at the ocean. I took the keys and followed. Clear green-blue water and huge waves hitting the rocks made us forget whatever tiredness we had.
Our landlords in Bangalore are basically from Pondicherry and they were there at that time. We called them up to ask about a good hotel where we can check in. Aunty and Uncle came and took us to Ashram guesthouse but both of the guest houses were full. We tried few more hotels but everything was full. Looked like half of the people from Bangalore and Chennai were in Pondicherry and we were also a day late than the others. Finally all of us went for lunch and after that Uncle gave us his relative's newly constructed house to stay. We went there and slept. In the evening we came to the beach road again. It was full of people, good music and it was very lively. There were "Freedom Jam, No Bread" concerts going on all over the place. We took a stroll on the rocks placed facing the sea. Then we sat on the rocks, listening to the waves. It was heavenly. But the sea doesn’t look so friendly at night. But believe me; you would want to come again and again just to sit there looking at the sea and listening to the waves and letting the ocean breeze run thru your hair. We had dinner and went back to our house (we could call it our house even it was just for a day).
Next day we had breakfast and again went to the beach road to get a morning view of the sea. It was beautiful in the morning too but we couldn’t spend much time there as there were other places to see also. We went to a boat house at Ariankuppam about 7-8 kms from the beach road in Pondy. It is a nice picnic spot. We did pedal boating in the backwaters. Speed boating also available there. Then we took off for Auroville. To reach there we need to go towards the East Coast Road which goes to Chennai. On the way we saw a taxi with Auroville written on it and we thought we will follow it. A little while later I realized that Auroville might have been left behind and the taxi was going elsewhere but the road was so good with the sea on one side that we followed it. The taxi turned down onto a mud road and we could see a beach in the distance. It turned out that the taxi was going to the Pondicherry University guest house and the beach was behind it. But we were not a bit sorry for the wrong route and in fact quite thrilled to see the virgin beach. It was a beach like we hadn't seen before...not even in Goa…pure, clean sand, clear blue water and huge waves. There were crabs on the sand. And nobody except a very few locals on the beach. We went into the water and enjoyed the waves hitting us. It was fun.
Finally we reached Auroville. Unfortunately, Matrimandir which is the major attraction is open only till 12:30 on Sundays. So we couldn't see it. But even otherwise, Auroville is a very peaceful place full of greenery. People from 30 different countries stay here. It is the vision of The Mother and is a township dedicated to experiment in human unity. Go through the site to get details on timings for visiting and to get an idea about Auroville.
There is a cafeteria at Auroville. And I have to mention this. The homemade kulfi which they serve here is something out of this world. Never had a kulfi like that before. It was so soft and tasty...just melts in your mouth. The walnut cake and chocolate brownie are also good. On our way back from Auroville we wanted to see the beach with rocks one last time before we left and so we took that route to reach home.
We left Pondy at around 4 and took a night halt at Thiruvannamalai. The hotel Anurachalam had quite a descent rooms considering the place looked like a village. We set out to have dinner at the restaurant belonging to the same hotel. It was an experience in itself. The waiter, if we can call him that, was scaring us more than serving us. :) He gave us banana leaf and when he came back with dosas, he ordered us to clean the leaf with water. Then he stood just behind our table as if to see how we are eating. And when we gave him money, he said something angrily in Tamil which thankfully we couldn’t understand. We were still hungry but we left from the place. All the restaurants in Thiruvannamalai seem to be serving only idlis and dosas. We went to a more inviting restaurant and it seemed much better compared to the previous experience. We had another dosa there and went back to our room thinking no more dosas for at least a week. I really missed the Bangalore style sambar. The sambar here looked like it didn’t have the sambar masala and had just the dal.
I was fast asleep before 9. My husband was busy watching TV as he got to do so after 2 days.
Next morning we left at 5:30 and were in Bangalore by 9:30 braving the traffic near Electronics city and BTM. It was a great trip and we look forward to our second visit to Pondicherry whenever it will be.
Some Precautions before taking the trip -
1) Avoid going in summer as the weather here is very hot. Even in January. People from Mumbai might be reminded of the weather there :)
2) Book hotel in advance specially if going on a long weekend.
3) There are big mosquitos in the area. So use mosquito repellents.

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